Clouds on Neptune may have been created by the Sun

Orbiting nearly 3 million miles from the sun, Neptune is located at a remote location from Earth. However, the knowledge that we already know about the atmosphere and weather conditions on this planet is not small at all. Violent storms were observed on Neptune when the Voyager 2 spacecraft passed by the planet in the early 1980s. Along with these were dark spots surrounded by white clouds of frozen methane gas. cold. Even so, astronomers are currently facing a conundrum about the origin of these storms, and why they seem to keep appearing and disappearing over time like an endless loop. .

Researchers recently used Hubble and other advanced telescope and observatory systems to observe Neptune’s clouds to investigate a mystery: Why the planet sometimes has so many clouds. cloudy in its atmosphere, while at other times it is almost absent. For example, in 2019, Neptune’s cloud volume has decreased significantly for unknown reasons.

As a result, the team found a link between Neptune’s cloudiness and 11-year solar cycles. At certain times, the number of sunspots and flares from the sun increases, which emits more ultraviolet (UV) radiation into the solar system. This radiation appears to affect the clouds on Neptune, as the study shows that in data over 30 years more clouds appear two years after the peak of the solar cycle. The researchers attribute this two-year delay to chemical processes that begin in the planet’s atmosphere and take time to create the clouds.

Neptune is the farthest large planet in the solar system, receiving only about 0.1% of the Sun’s intensity on Earth. However, the changes in the clouds that cover Neptune appear to be driven by the Sun’s activity rather than the four seasons, each lasting about 40 years, on the planet.

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“These remarkable data provide us with the strongest evidence yet that Neptune’s cloud cover is correlated with the Sun’s cycle. This finding supports the hypothesis that the Sun’s UV rays, when strong enough, can trigger the photochemical reaction that produces Neptune’s clouds,” said Dr. know.

Currently, cloud cover over Neptune is very low, with the exception of some clouds hovering over the planet’s south pole. A team of astronomers found that the cloudiness commonly found at the equator of Neptune began to decrease in 2019.

In the future, the researchers want to continue to monitor cloud activity on Neptune to understand how the sun affects clouds, and whether clouds will reappear to the same level.